Freshly Restored Douglas A-1H Skyraider Unveiled at NMUSAF

The freshly-restored Douglas A-1H Skyraider basking in the golden light of early morning outside the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force following the completion of its rework in mid-November, 2022. (US Air Force photo by Ken LaRock)
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by Richard Mallory Allnutt (Editor)

Back in June, we published Adam Estes’ marvelous article detailing the history and preservation status of Douglas A-1H Skyraider BuNo.134600, a former U.S. Navy example which went on to serve in combat with the South Vietnam Air Force. At the time, this Skyraider was nearing the end of its refurbishment within the restoration facility at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in Dayton, Ohio. Well, we can now report that the museum has completed their work; they placed the aircraft on public display following a private unveiling ceremony on November 18th.

The restoration team standing proudly in front of their masterpiece a few days before the Skyraider’s nose art unveiling ceremony at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in Dayton, Ohio. (U.S. Air Force photo by Ken LaRock)

The Air Force Museum Foundation collaborated with the A-1 Skyraider Association to fund the Skyraider’s restoration, marking the first time that the Foundation has partnered with a single entity to finance such an endeavor. When they first received the aircraft, it was basically an empty shell, but the restoration staff was able to obtain some of the missing pieces from their own stock or outside sources and fabricate the rest of what they needed. After eighteen months of hard work, they have created what can only be described as a masterpiece!

The Skyraider following its repaint, and just before the installation of its freshly-restored propeller during late August, 2022. (US Air Force photo by Ken LaRock)

The museum has reconfigured and repainted this former U.S. Navy Skyraider to represent an example which served the U.S. Air Force in a Search & Rescue (SAR) role during the Vietnam War – this being Captain Ronald Smith’s A-1H 52-139738, nicknamed The Proud American. The markings which the aircraft presently bears are those which 52-139738 wore in June, 1972 while serving with the 1st Special Operations Squadron out of Nakhon Phanom Royal Thai Air Force Base in Thailand. Captain Smith received the Air Force Cross for his actions in The Proud American during the rescue of Captain Roger Locher deep inside North Vietnam on June 1/2nd, 1972. Captain Locher had been on the run for 27 days, having ejected from the rear seat of a 555th TFS F-4D when the aircraft was shot down in a fierce aerial duel with MiG-19s, MiG-21s and Shenyang J-6s (Chinese-built MiG-19). That mission is worthy of an article all of its own, but a snapshot of the details is available here

McDonnell Douglas F-4D Phantom II 65-0784, the aircraft which Locher ejected from on the day he was shot down over North Vietnam. His pilot, Major Robert A. Lodge, sadly went down with the aircraft. The two men had at least two confirmed aerial victories during their service together. (image via Wikipedia)
The Proud American in theatre, probably during the summer of 1972. (photo by Byron Hukee via NMUSAF)
The National Museum of the U.S. Air Force’s A-1H Skyraider now bearing the markings of a famous example nicknamed The Proud American following the completion of the aircraft’s restoration in mid-November, 2022. (US Air Force photo by Ken LaRock)

The video below shows the aircraft being towed from the workshop to its new display position within the South East Asia War Gallery.

 

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